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Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Culture, History + Contributions

2020 Hispanic Heritage Month

September 21, 2020

Each year, Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. On September 17, 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-48, officially authorizing and requesting the president to issue annual proclamations declaring September 15 and September 16 to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Week and called upon the “people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first Hispanic Heritage Week presidential proclamation the same day.

September 15 was chosen as the starting point of Hispanic Heritage Month because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.

Iowa Latino Hall of Fame

Iowa Latino Hall of Fame 

Today there are many Latino/as doing amazing work in Iowa. We invite you to visit the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame. Many outstanding Latinos/as helped shape Iowa and continue to contribute their talents and skills to improve the quality of life in this state. To recognize and honor these achievers and to provide visible examples for tomorrow’s Latino leaders, the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs established the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame in 2017 with the goal of ensuring that the efforts of Latino leaders are honorably recognized and celebrated.

Among the many strong Latino leaders are political and social activists, scientists, educators, writers and spiritual and community leaders. They represent the Latinos who have helped shape Iowa, the United States and the world. Their induction into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame will enhance the visibility of their contributions to their work, communities and the status of Latinos in Iowa.

2020 Induction Ceremony

The Iowa Latino Hall of Fame is held around National Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month — from September 15 to October 15 — which celebrates and honors the contributions made by Latinos and Hispanics in the United States.

The 2020 Iowa Latino Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place virtually at 6 p.m. Saturday, October 17. Visit the Iowa Commision of Latino Affairs' Facebook page or contact Executive Officer Sonia Reyes-Snyder with the Office of Latino Affairs, Iowa Department of Human Rights at sonia.reyes@iowa.gov for more information.

Hispanic Heritage Month Facts

For those interested in learning more about Hispanic Heritage Month, I’ve compiled a few facts below:

  • The term Hispanic originates from the Latin word Hispania. It was first used by ancient Romans to describe the region of Spain they conquered in the second century B.C.
    Source: Radomile, Leon J. Heritage Hispanic-American Style. Novato, California: 2003.
  • Mexican-American César Estrada Chávez (1927–1993) was a prominent union leader and labor organizer. In 1962, he founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. Using nonviolent methods — such as boycotts, marches and hunger strikes — Chávez secured raises and improved conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.
    Source: history.com/topics/cesar-chavez
  • The U.S. Navy christened the dry cargo/ammunition ship the USNS Cesar Chavez on May 5, 2012. The ship was named to honor the prominent Mexican-American civil rights activist, who served in the Navy during World War II.
    Source: history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/people/namesakes/cesar-chavez.html
  • At Stanford University in the 1940s, Dr. Albert Baez, together with Paul Kirkpatrick, developed the first x-ray microscope to observe living cells. His daughter, Joan Baez, became a world-famous writer, singer and human rights activist.
    Source: hispanicphysicists.org/recognition/bio(baez).html
  • Christina Aguilera was only 18 when her single, “Genie in a Bottle,” became the number one hit single in 1999. Aguilera was the first woman of Hispanic heritage to achieve such instant success, selling over eight million copies of her first album and winning a Grammy award.
    Source: Radomile, Leon J. Heritage Hispanic-American Style. Novato, California: 2003.
  • According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, Hispanics were not identified as an ethnicity on military records until the Vietnam War — so the exact number who served during WWII is unknown — however, unofficial estimates range between 400,000 and 500,000. Military Records
  • The oldest of 12 children, Dr. France Anne Cordova was the youngest person to hold the position of NASA chief scientist. Cordova is the recipient of NASA's Distinguished Service Medal, its highest honor. Dr. Cordova served as the 11th president of Purdue University and the first Hispanic woman to lead the Indiana campus.
    Source: purdue.edu/president/about/index.html
  • Ellen Ochoa, a veteran astronaut, became the 11th Director of the Johnson Space Center in 2012. Ochoa is the first Hispanic director and second female director.Ellen Ochoa Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission on the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She has flown in space four times, spending almost 1,000 hours in orbit.
    Source: nasa.gov/centers/johnson/about/people/orgs/bios/ochoa.html
  • There have been 20 Hispanic-American women who have served in Congress. The first Hispanic-American woman elected to Congress, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, won election to the House in 1989.
    Source: history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Data/Women-of-Color-in-Congress/
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor became a U.S. District Court Judge in 1992 and was elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. In 2009, she was confirmed as the first Latina Supreme Court justice in U.S. history.
    Source: biography.com/law-figure/sonia-sotomayor

Latinos/as make enduring contributions to our city, state and country every day. I hope you take the time to learn more about their contributions and achievements.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.